Amid Declining Participation, USDA’s School Lunch Program Embraces ‘Cultural Inclusion’

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 changed the nutrition requirements for school lunches and breakfasts, but the U.S. Agriculture Department says the law also gives schools the flexibility to prepare meals that are “familiar to kids from culturally diverse backgrounds.”

Blogging at the USDA website on Wednesday, Dr. Katie Wilson, deputy undersecretary for for food, nutrition and consumer services, hailed the nation’s “diversity” of people, ideas, and culture: “One of the way culture is expressed is through the foods we eat,” she wrote. “Our nation’s school meals should be no exception.”

Wilson said she recently participated in one of USDA’s “Team Up For School Nutrition Success” training workshops, where she learned how school food authorities are finding creative ways to meet the government-mandated nutrition standards while preparing meals that are “tastier and more appealing for this tough audience.”

“For instance, I learned that in Puerto Rico, it is common for children to eat arroz con habichuelas y carne de cerdo (rice and beans with pork). Schools are finding ways to prepare this same meal in a healthy way that satisfies the palates of children who are used to eating it at home.